I was finally afforded the opportunity to eat at Zapoteca recently, due to a double-date night with Ben and Laura and a sweet Living Social deal (paid $25 to get $50 worth of food). We strolled down to their Fore Street location after imbibing a bit at Ben and Laura’s casa.
The valet attendant opened the door for us. I was glad we walked, because $6 valet parking hardly seemed like a good deal to me. Being the cheapskate that I am I probably would have driven circles causing us to miss our reservation instead. But I digress, because the minute we walked in the lively atmosphere took over. Bartenders were shaking up every kind of margarita imaginable. The smells from the kitchen were as spicy as the name of the restaurant itself rolling off my tongue. Zapoteca is no place to eschew in the vibrant Portland food scene.
We arrived promptly at eight o’clock for our reservation. We were told our table would be a few minutes, so we cozied up next to the bar to check out the cocktail menu. Just as we were about to order we were directed to our table through the back open kitchen area. I loved the concept and I could see everyone working and garnishing the plates. It was a perfectly beautiful, clean, and organized space.
When we were seated our waitress came right over to take our drink order. I decided on the Blood Orange Margarita, Ben got the Guava Margarita, Laura decided on the Pomegranate Margarita, and Mark (not one to drink Tequila) tried the La Rumba—a drink made with rum that was reminiscent of a mojito. We also put in for the Ceviche Trio, which consisted of one made with whitefish in a tangy lime juice with jalapeños; one made with huge chunks of lobster marinating in a grapefruit salsa; one shrimp and calamari ceviche made with lime, orange and chili habanero. Each came served in a martini glasses with tortilla chips on the side. I thought the whitefish one was by far the best, but the lobster ceviche was a huge hit with the rest of the gang.
They were all delicious, but there weren’t nearly enough tortillas for four people and the large amount of ceviche.
We also had the steamed mussels with chorizo. They were in a rich sauce, and while the mussels weren’t of the freshest quality, the sauce made up for it.
It was then time to order our entrées. Laura decided to go with the Enchilada Suizas de Pollo. This was a beautiful plate of wood roasted enchiladas with local Jack cheese and topped with fire-roasted tomatilla sauce, black beans and guajillo salad.
She loved the dish, but thought it needed some extra spice, so she sent our waitress for some house made ghost pepper hot sauce. After tasting it, she claimed it wasn’t even that hot (though we all know ghost peppers are the hottest in the world). Her maiden name is Hernandez, so she joked that she was born to handle the heat. My background is French, so I didn’t even attempt that madness.
Ben ordered the Carnitas De Puerco. Those were made with locally raised pork shoulder and topped with a tomato chile sauce with black beans, salad, and grilled tortillas on the side.
That block of pork looked absolutely amazing. I snuck a taste while Ben ate away. He was three-quarters of the way done before he realized he was eating it without the tortillas. He didn’t seem to mind, as it was perfect with, or without, them.
My husband, ever the beef lover, just had to try the Ancho Filete Con Champiñones. Locally grass-fed beef (his main weakness in life), chipotle sauce, and queso blanco harkened him to a gastronomic state of zen rarely able to be achieved in such a boisterous atmosphere. Topped off with some “perfectly cooked” asparagus and garlic cheddar chipotle mashed potatoes and you had one happy man.
I was having the absolute worst time deciding what to have. So many items just sounded too good to pass up, but I finally decided on the Relleno De Puerco. It was an absolutely amazing fire-roasted poblano pepper filled with chorizo and pork, then topped with queso fresco and tomato habanero sauce with black beans on the side.
It was absolutely wonderful. The habanero sauce on top was quite spicy, but nothing a margarita or two couldn’t solve. The roasted pepper was cooked to perfection and I was very impressed with the quality of all the ingredients. I would definitely eat the dish again and would recommend it to anyone who has an obsession with relleno, because I have a semi-serious one and it was more than I even hoped it would be.
I don’t think Zapoteca is trying to give the impression that it’s authentic Mexican food, but the inspiration is quite fantastic. I think for an upscale Latin American food experience it hits a home run. They have a wide variety of menu choices (only one vegetarian option though…) and their drink menu is inventive to boot. The only complaint I have is that many of the dishes were quite salty (not to the immediate taste, but an after effect was felt later that night and next day). I simply could not drink enough water to quench my thirst for the next 24-hours. It was overall an excellent dining experience in Portland and I really just can’t wait to go back and taste some more of their menu items—I’m definitely thinking enchiladas next time.